Minnesota Wild: 2012-13 Regular Season Review

Pre-season projection: Playoff team

Final team record: 26-19-3 (8th in Western Conference)

Marco Scandella
Marco Scandella (Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE)

Flip a coin. The Minnesota Wild made the playoffs for the first time in five years; they almost played themselves out with a 5-6-1 finish, blowing their shot at the division. They scratched out critical season-ending tilts with the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche; they no showed just as many key battles.

The truth is, Minnesota was lucky to stumble in. The entire team went cold, averaging 1.83 goals in their final dozen games. They solved their lack of defensive depth by pushing Ryan Suter over 30 minutes six times. Niklas Backstrom was pulled three times.

Heading into a daunting first-round match-up with the President’s Trophy-winning Chicago Blackhawks, the Wild must answer questions throughout its lineup. But at least the players earned another chance to reply. What do they have to say to the Hawks?




Current (league ranking)

After 36 games (league ranking)

2.46 goals/game (22nd)

2.67 goals/game (16th)

52 goals / home (30th)


31 first period goals (24th)

24 first period goals (25th)

37 third period goals (24th)


-10 (5v5 overall goal differential) (79 GF-89 GA)

+0 (5v5 overall goal differential) (63 GF-63 GA)

17.9 % PP (16th)

17.5 % PP (21st)

13.2 % Home PP (28th), 23.5 % Road PP (2nd)

14.5 % Home PP (26th), 21.0 % Road PP (8th)

151 PP Opportunities (22nd)

126 PP Opportunities (16th)

28.8 shots/game (17th)

28.7 shots/game (16th)

37.0 Fenwick For/60 (5-on-5, Shots + shots attempts that missed the net/60) (25th)

36.5 Fenwick For/60 (5-on-5, Shots + shots attempts that missed the net/60) (27th)

18-12-1 record when outshooting/equaling opposition shots, 8-7-2 when outshot

13-8 record when outshooting/equaling opposition shots, 8-5-2 when outshot

52.4 Faceoff% (3rd)  

52.3 Faceoff% (4th)

2.60 goals/against (16th)

2.58 goals/against (14th)

80.7% PK (18th)

81.4% PK (14th)

135 Times Shorthanded (1)

113 Times Shorthanded (6)


Devin Setoguchi and Matt Cullen were crippled by expected slumps, and nobody really picked them up, including Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. Most disturbingly, the Wild was outscored 5-on-5 by 10 goals in just their last 12 games. Consequently, they’re the worst 5-on-5 playoff team in the league.

Special teams couldn’t make up the difference. The power play improved slightly, but the penalty kill collapsed, falling to 18th in the league (after reaching fourth overall at the midway point of the season).

This although the Wild was only shorthanded 22 times in the last dozen games. Certainly, Backstrom’s rocky keeping overturned many of team’s “best laid plans.”



Desperation has a name, and it’s Marco.

No one is predicting a Wild upset of Chicago, and rightfully so. But how could it happen?

Minnesota’s numerous late-season disappointments, most likely Setoguchi, Cullen, or Pierre-Marc Bouchard, have to heat up again. A triumphant return by Jason Pominville would go a long way. Defying his uneven if short playoff experience, Backstrom will have to flash perhaps the two best weeks of his career against the relentless Blackhawks.

Chicago’s goaltending may be vulnerable. Like Backstrom, starter Corey Crawford’s playoff exposure is limited to two first-round bounces, while Ray Emery’s signature postseason moment (leading the Ottawa Senators to the Finals) happened a half-decade ago.

It’s not much to count on. But it’s better than the organizational Armageddon that might have touched off if the refs had upheld the lacking of “distinct kicking motion” goal by Colorado in the final game of the season.




Zach Parise

Cap hit: $7,538,462

Pre-season projection: Franchise star

Current stock: Holding

On pace for 31 goals over an 82-game season, Parise essentially matched his numbers from the year before. More often than not, he was Minnesota’s most dangerous forward and scored key goals down the stretch.

Ryan Suter

Cap hit: $7,538,462

Pre-season projection: Franchise defenseman

Current stock: Holding

Suter put up only four points in his last dozen games, damaging his chances at the Norris. More importantly, his defensive play was inconsistent, but Minnesota did have a 3-2-1 record when he played more than 30 minutes a game, including the big wins over the Kings and Avalanche.

Dany Heatley

Cap hit: $7,500,000

Pre-season projection: First line scorer

Current stock: Dropping

Out for season.

Mikko Koivu

Cap hit: $6,750,000

Pre-season projection: First line center

Current stock: Holding

A little snake-bitten, the Captain only managed four points to close the season. Unfairly, he’ll need a big postseason to dispel some fan disenchantment with his leadership.

Niklas Backstrom

Cap hit: $6,000,000

Pre-season projection: Top-10 goalie

Current stock: Dropping

Backstrom alternated between brilliant and awful, highlighted by a sprawling pad save on LA’s Slava Voynov with eleven seconds left in a one-goal game and 15 third-period saves to beat Colorado in the playoff-clincher, and tarred by being yanked after five and two shots. Even with a league-leading 24 wins, an 89.6 save % is no way to close a Vezina campaign.

Jason Pominville

Cap hit: $4,505,000

Pre-season projection: First line playmaker

Current stock: Holding

With nine points in 10 games, Pominville was the only player immune to the team-wide “Ice Age,” making the concussion suffered by Dustin Brown’s elbow all the more galling. He hasn’t been used as frequently short-handed with Minnesota as he was in Buffalo.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard

Cap hit: $4,080,000

Pre-season projection: Top-six playmaker

Current stock: Dropping

Always limited but sometimes dazzling, Bouchard posted an interesting 56.6 CF% (Corsi For%) (5v5 Zone-Start Adjusted) with Kyle Brodziak, suggesting a fruitful pairing (generally, better than 50% is good, meaning you have the puck more than your opponents with stats courtesy of stats.hockeyanalysis.com). However, there isn’t any reason to believe that he’ll flourish in tight-checking playoff battles.

Tom Gilbert

Cap hit: $4,000,000

Pre-season projection: Top-four, two-way defenseman

Current stock: Holding

After being scratched a couple games, Gilbert came back with four assists at 18:25 ATOI (Average Time on Ice) in his last nine games. He seems to have reclaimed a tenuous hold on a top-four defensive spot, though due more to the team’s lack of defensive depth than truly excellent play.

Matt Cullen

Cap hit: $3,500,000

Pre-season projection: Top-six playmaker

Current stock: Holding

Notching just two assists in his last seven games, Cullen has started his return to earth. He still managed to lead the Wild with 23 ESP (Even Strength Points) and ESP/60 mins. I’d still have “extension tension” with his advanced age and suspicious “contract year” explosion.

Devin Setoguchi

Cap hit: $3,000,000

Pre-season projection: Top-six scorer

Current stock: Holding

His one goal in the last 12 proved to be the game winner in the do-or-die Colorado game. With goalless streaks of 10 and 14 games this season, Setoguchi has done nothing to shed his reputation for inconsistency. There is a circumstantial inverse connection between his hitting and scoring.

Devin Setoguchi, 2012-13



Games 1-12



Games 13-24



Games 25-36



Games 37-48




Kyle Brodziak

Cap hit: $2,833,333

Pre-season projection: Two-way, third line center

Current stock: Dropping

There were promising signs, but this was by and large a disappointing season for Brodziak. His once-tenacious forechecking wasn’t apparent throughout the season. Considered Minnesota’s second-best defensive center, ranked only behind Koivu in Corsi Relative Quality of Competition, he may not be good enough to be the “stopper” center for a true contender.

Josh Harding

Cap hit: $1,900,000

Pre-season projection: Strong backup goalie

Current stock: Dropping

With only limited action since his stay on the IR, his reputation as a fine backup is in question. The perhaps overworked Backstrom certainly could’ve used a hand to end the season. Any appearance by Harding in the playoffs won’t be welcome.

Torrey Mitchell

Cap hit: $1,900,000

Pre-season projection: Third line grinder

Current stock: Dropping

Mitchell’s 43.4 CF% (Corsi For%) (5v5 Zone-Start Adjusted) this season is disappointing after the 50-plus numbers that he’s put up throughout his career. He doesn’t appear to be a very strong bottom-six player, just another one.

Mike Rupp

Cap hit: $1,500,000

Pre-season projection: Fourth line center

Current stock: Holding

Rupp’s 45.6 CF% (Corsi For%) (5v5 Zone-Start Adjusted) is not really impressive, and belies Michael Russo’s assertion of his importance to the squad. He’s an okay player, better than most in his role, but that’s it.

Jonas Brodin

Cap hit: $1,444,167

Pre-season projection: AHL star

Current stock: Rising

While Brodin has betrayed more inconsistency in his game recently, he was a rock with a career-high 29:22 in the surprising victory over Los Angeles. Most impressively, he’s played a decent amount more  minutes in his last dozen games (24:30 ATOI) compared to his first 12 (22:14 ATOI).

Cal Clutterbuck

Cap hit: $1,400,000

Pre-season projection: Third line, two-way pest

Current stock: Dropping

We’ve been waiting for Clutterbuck to turn his game around, and it just hasn’t happened in whole. Minnesota may benefit from this down season when dealing with his upcoming RFA status.

Clayton Stoner

Cap hit: $1,050,000

Pre-season projection: Top-four defenseman

Current stock: Dropping

Stoner has been marginally better, perhaps aided by Gilbert taking on more of his minutes, but he’s still a bottom-pairing guy. His overall 1.8 hits per game led the team’s defense.

Charlie Coyle

Cap hit: $975,000

Pre-season projection: AHL star

Current stock: Rising

Perhaps as surprising a revelation as Brodin, Coyle may have carved himself a career as Parise and Koivu’s foil. Case in point, his CF% (Corsi For%) (5v5 Zone-Start Adjusted) with them compared with their other frequent linemates this year.

Zach Parise w/CF% (5v5 Zone-Start Adjusted)

Mikko Koivu w/CF% (5v5 Zone-Start Adjusted)

Charlie Coyle



Dany Heatley



Jason Pominville




Zenon Konopka

Cap hit: $925,000

Pre-season projection: Fourth line center, enforcer

Current stock: Holding

While not relied on to score, Konopka managed to play 37 games this season without a point. His 40.3 CF% (Corsi For%) (5v5 Zone-Start Adjusted) supports the notion that the fourth line unit of Mitchell-Konopka-Rupp isn’t as effective as some people would have you believe.

Brett Clark

Cap hit: $900,000

Pre-season projection: Bottom-six, two-way defenseman

Current stock: Dropping

With six scratches in the last dozen games, he’s been everything you’d expect from a defenseman cut by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Darcy Kuemper

Cap hit: $900,000

Pre-season projection: AHL backup

Current stock: Rising

The coaching staff didn’t have the confidence to start him even with Backstrom’s shakiness. While that’s hardly damning as the Wild was fighting for every point, the fact doesn’t support the idea that Kuemper’s quite ready to be a reliable NHL backup.

Jason Zucker

Cap hit: $833,000

Pre-season projection: AHL star

Current stock: Holding

There was a clamor for his return, as it’s easy to be fooled by a few, clever flashes, but playing a consistent two-way game in the bigs is difficult for any rookie. Zucker’s talent is real, as is his rawness, demonstrated by his quick dismissal after a call-up.

Justin Falk

Cap hit: $825,000

Pre-season projection: Bottom-six defenseman

Current stock: Dropping

Generally preferred over Clark and Prosser, and featuring a more physical game at 1.5 hits per game (second among defense), his job is in jeopardy with the call-up of Scandella.

Nate Prosser

Cap hit: $825,000

Pre-season projection: Seventh defenseman

Current stock: Holding

With 10 scratches in the last dozen, Prosser’s lost “The Running Man” to Falk, Clark, and Scandella.

Jared Spurgeon

Cap hit: $526,667

Pre-season projection: Top-four defenseman

Current stock: Holding

Wrapping up the season with a 21:32 ATOI, the gutty, skilled Spurgeon has established himself as Minnesota’s number-three defenseman heading into the playoffs. How that bodes for this fringe-playoff team is another question.